Craft Beer Rising – who’s going?

UPDATE: Glad to note that the CBR folks have put a sort of a brewery list online. It’s a PDF of brewery logos… looking good, check it out by clicking here!

I went to Craft Beer Rising in 2013 and it was a bit of a disappointing come-down from October 2012’s IMBC experience. Reflecting on it this week I’m thinking “cross between an IT industry trade-show and a concrete car-park – with the the bonus of beer”. As grim as that sounds, I did say at the time I’d go again and I enjoyed the day out.

It’s been a close one though. I was considering skipping the gig, the fact that the CBR people are too lazy to maintain a useful and informative website was a big drag factor. They’re in the “just posting random shite on FaceBollocks is sufficient” camp  – even their Twitter feed is mostly links into FaceBollocks. I don’t mind people using FaceBollocks but don’t make it your primary platform FFS. It’s a daft mess. People “doing it wrong” online really get my goat… but then…


I found out the @YeastieBoys would be along to do some tastings with Melissa Cole… sod. I’ve been keen on them and their beer ever since drinking huge volumes of it back in New Zealand in 2011. Coming to the UK you say? Maybe there’ll be some exRRex along, or failing that I’d settle for Rex Attitude. Phwoar! (They’re also brewing up a cask version of their wonderful tea-infused Gunnamatta at Adnams for the Wetherspoons fest while they’re here.) With this in mind I thought I’d have a closer look… still no damn list. Oh well. Websuck, vim, search, type… and I have this:

I think this is not complete – that last one was announced only yesterday. Anyway, as it stands it is a tantalising list of beery names – and it is definitely better than last year. In fact this list certainly makes it worth my while attending… why the CBR folks can’t simply put it on their next-to-useless website I don’t know. Not everyone has time to trawl through a messy social media backlog (I wouldn’t have bothered but for the Yeastie Boys info). At least I didn’t have to create yet-another-temporary-account to get to their stuff on FaceBollocks – they win points for not putting up the usual FB Brick Wall of No Data Access.

Anyway – see you at Craft Beer Rising’s Saturday arvo session if you’re about. Here’s where our day out at the event last year ended up:

Colin enjoys a craft Carling on the train home.

Colin enjoys a craft Carling on the train home.


IMBC LogoSecond year, second killer @IndyManBeerCon.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about actual beers. But… but… it’s a *beer* festival?! Well, yeah, I drank quite a few and a majority of them have some vague notes on Untappd. Mostly not-at-all-run-of-the-mill stuff, not a single drainpour – although one came close! (Not “bad” just “cloyingly sweet”.) The biggest problem with IMBC is the sheer number of beers I *want* to try, an impossible number. With your typical beer festival I am lucky to get a shortlist of 10 beers that just slightly excite me. So… a change of pace is required – which really adds to the charm of the festival for me. I’m not trying to work through a list, or bag beers, I’m hangin’.  Plus what use are my notes on one-off beers and a list of barely accessible “top picks”? The beer was, in general, bloody outstanding. Moving on…

Kat with Table

Even more fun was to be had simply basking in the glow of the still-developing UK beer scene – hanging out with folk passionate about what they drink and what they brew… hanging out until around 4AM on two nights! 8-O It took me 4 days to get back to a normal sleeping pattern. Our IMBC started before IMBC did – getting up at 4AM on Wednesday October 9th to drive up to Manchester and help out with the event set-up from 10AM that day. Hotel check-in done, and then a night in Port Street Beer House. A bit of a killer pre-IMBC day for us – but believe it or not we consider all this a “holiday” from our sitting-on-our-arse-all-day worklives. The 8 tokens each we got for the effort are a happy bonus.

Colin doubling up!From then on it was all drinkin’! Yeah! Back in March buying “full fat” tickets seemed a grand idea… we’d not really properly pondered the crazy Thu/Fri/Sat/Sun full-on festival experience of this though. Thursday was a steady session in the baths with an “early” night to bed in the hotel at about half past the witching hour. Friday was when the party really started, an afternoon BrewDog Mancs lunch then a grand and social IMBC evening – finishing up the night in Port Street with brewing scene stars then back in the Travelodge foyer with many of them at about 4AM. Adoring beer groupies, us. After this we slowed up… paced ourselves, enjoyed the beer, people, food, and information flow. The hangover on Saturday “lite” session helped with the slow-down ;) and a mid-session “nanna nap” helped with the evening winding back up to speed…. despite a pledge not to, on Saturday night we “accidentally” ended up in BrewDog Mancs with beerstars again… c’est la vie!

Lovibonds JeffDuring the event we attended a few talks – mainly for the sake of the beer. Not really, well – not entirely ;) In no particular order: It was excellent hearing @Lovibonds “I HATE PowerPoint” Jeff tell us of how “Sour Grapes” came about. From fortuitous twist of fate that, literally, seeded regular commercial production of sour beer. During the session we tasted the Henley Gold, the Sour Grapes, and the Barrel Aged Sour Grapes – three distinctly different beers with the same origin, it is the Henley Gold that becomes the sour by some sort of dark brewer magic.

RedWillow Toby "dry chipotles" a beer.

Whilst RedWillow @TobyMcKenzie‘s “IBU” talk was a non-starter for technical reasons, we ended up with a very entertaining talk on beer diversity instead – from live “dry chipotle-ing” a stout, through one of the best oyster stouts I’ve ever had, to a truly weird and wrong homebrew – Toby exposing his roots. Ballsy place to finish given that his 2012 IMBC “yeast” talk was pretty much a “here’s some not very nice beer, drink it in the name of science”. But believe me the real RedWillow product is damn fine. Oh my, I really need more of that oyster stout – it was amazing.

Simply HopsThe @SimplyHops Jack talk on use of hops in brewing was on the drier side (hah hah), but I like the technical as much as the entertaining – his exaggerated “where hops can be added” slide was great. I can hear the shout of the hop-head-hipsters: ALL OF THE HOP SPOTS! Scott from @thebeermoth introduced the probably-already-converted to some excellent “wild” beers, taste exploration – it’s what I’m all about.

Darkstar brewer AndyFinally @Darkstartbrewco head brewer Andy gave us an excellent, detailed and down-to-earth run-down of what’s up at the brewery – it looks to me like brewing in DarkStar has been passed on to good hands. (Factoid: Andy used to work for BrewDog! Seems to be quite a few former-BrewDog folk heading on to big things elsewhere.) That was our lot… sadly clashes and late-arrivals to sessions meant we didn’t catch several talks we wanted to.

I have video footage of most of these talks and some is definitely worth putting online, especially Lovibonds Jeff and Darkstar Andy. But first I’ll want to check it’s OK with the brewers and then I need to find the time to clean it up for publishing. For the moment there are some brief appearances from the speakers in my wacky video below!

Count the brewers? :) I gave up at 15. :-p I also have film of more Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band pieces which they’ve permitted me to publish, so I’ll see about cleaning them up too. The videoing is a bit crap, but the beatz are wikkid!

Food… haven’t covered that yet have I. A greater variety and better set-up and availability than 2012. We went to every IMBC session and ate at all but one of them and could have something different every time. Ideal. Not only that but the food was, as last year, far better quality than the typical beer festival fare. Quality and flavour – not “stodge” – craft eats? It was the Guerrilla Eats collective behind this, providing a culture- and taste-spanning diversity. Hand formed beef burgers made with rough minced beef that looked and tasted amazing, paella, dosa, rich stews (boar and black pudding – yum!), pulled pork, gourmet hotdogs with Punk IPA sauerkraut, nachos… IMBC is a solid as well as liquid festival for the tastebuds. And on top of all this the wonderful @NorthTeaPower folk brought an espresso machine along this year… perfect way to start a session after a big previous night of beery celebration.

Is IMBC a “Woodstock” for my generation of beer lovers?

I’m looking forward to 2014 already.

The Magic

P.S. After last year’s IMBC Kat put together some phone-taken video and photos to create this much darker “scary MagicRockStu clown” video:

#RIPScoop – makeup artiste!

Kat’s IndyManBeerCon Android App

IMBC-Logo-300x272 Last week Kat decided to ask if she could knock up a beer list Android app for the Independent Manchester Beer Convention. The IMBC folk were very busy of course – but were happy to send us a full beer list earlier this week, and so Kat has got the app working just in time… it is a little rough around the edges – but should form a reasonable digital alternative to the paper lists at IMBC. Of course you can’t scribble on the digital version! (Note taking is possible though.) But it does support neat features like filtering and sorting that a paper list doesn’t provide. :)

We’ve been trying to push this onto Google Play but Google Play isn’t playing ball with us for some reason – after a 12 hour wait: still no listing. So, for now, if anyone is really keen on trying out Kat’s app you can do so by downloading the APK directly.

Beer List

Beer List

Filtered List: Thursday, Keg Sorted by %ABV

Filtered List: Thursday, Keg Sorted by %ABV

First your phone will need to be configured to allow apps not from Google Play to be installed. To do this go to: Settings > Security – and then tick the Unknown Sources option. Now: download the APK:


(Don’t worry… we promise it won’t harm your device! It is a very simple app and Kat has some others on Google Play.)

Once the APK is downloaded you can select the download notification and it will ask if you want to install the application. Select “Install” … and we’re done! [You can now untick the Unknown Sources option.]

Launch the app and it’ll download the latest beer list data from our online database – this initial step takes a few seconds to complete, but should be less than a minute.

Beer View - shows location of beer

Beer View – shows location of beer

Brewery View

Brewery View

The blurb about the app features/etc that will (eventually) show up on Google Play is:

** ALPHA – has a few known bugs!

An unofficial 2013 Independent Manchester Beer Convention Beer List app!

We got hold of a sneaky pre-release of the IMBC beer list and adapted our existing beer list app for IMBC. There are a few rough edges still as this was a very last minute job! But the essentials are there…

– List of all IMBC keg & cask ales
– Filter by day (top left of beer list view)
– Filter by cask/keg (top middle of beer list view)
– Sort by name, brewer, or ABV (top right of beer list view)
– Beer location (Room 1, 2, and 3) is in the beer detail view

After installation the list can be live-updated by selecting ‘Refresh’ via the top-far-right menu, we will update things if there are any glaring errors or omissions… so long as we’re sober enough to operate the database.

Finally, as the IMBC list states: “Please note all beers are subject to availability and they could change at the last minute, so please don’t be upset.”

TODO / Future improvements:

1) Re-jig filtering mechanism
2) Add wishlist!!
3) Add search!!
4) Add events and notification
5) Auto-sync the app list with the online database

GBBF: CAMRA Bar Management Training

Bar and Kilderkins

These kils need to be on that scaffold… time for some proper work.

I did my first GBBF this year. My first as a volunteer I mean. Except I wasn’t there just to pull some pints, I was attending the CAMRA Bar Management Training that is held at GBBF every year. What is a “CAMRA Bar Manager” – what does this so-called “training” cover? Some would make jokes about beer gut cultivation (doing fine there on my own alas), choice of correct sandals (was a confirmed sandal wearer before I moved to the UK), and beard growth strategies (follicly challenged in the face department alas). Hey, I make fun of CAMRA too sometimes. However, the training really is a good and useful thing for anyone who wishes to care for cask ale – especially in a beer festival environment.


My fellow GBBF Bar Manager trainees.

How do you get to do it?
The training is for CAMRA members and you need to be nominated by your regional director. In my case I was lucky to have been pushed into it along with a colleague from North Herts CAMRA branch because our festivals lacked technical knowledge, plus as of this year we’re running a festival in summer and this requires cooling equipment. Under some guidance I’ve done most of the “cellar” for the last couple of festivals, and looked after the cooling at the last festival. (Luckily we had the GBBF technical director to hand to give us a crash-course.) I say “under some guidance” but there are only a couple of folk in the branch who’s guidance I particularly trust, whilst I’ve had some downright suspect instructions from others! Basically I was a little confused and certainly lacking confidence.

If you’re interested in doing the training I suggest that first you need to be involved with your local branch and have an interest in running festivals. If your branch lacks technical knowledge (many seem to) and you’re keen, you probably have a good chance of getting on the course. (However numbers are limited, so if at first you don’t succeed…). This year the course had people along ranging from 18 years old through to (at a guess) well into their 60s. We only had one woman on the course, which isn’t surprising I guess – is that in line with active membership or below? For my branch it is certainly below. Anyway – one is better than none. The trainees had travelled from all over, a chap even harking from the Isle of Man – plus a dude from the US doing the course as part of some exchange programme.

Scaffold Training

We learnt how to put together this modular scaffold stuff. (Not rocket science… but there are some tricks to it.)

What is covered?
A suffusion of beer festival information! The course is misnamed in a way. Whilst set-up and care of cask ale was core, we also had sessions on health and safety, risk assessment & insurance, ordering kit from HQ, foreign beer, beer flaws & infections, dispense technicalities (a keykeg made an appearance – yes, they can be perfectly OK as “real ale”), scaffolding, beer logistics & stock management, and cider. So really you could call this a “festival organiser course”, I think I probably could have a go at running a whole festival now (if I was that masochistic).

The course is a mix of theory sessions, hands-on practical sessions, and for the majority of the time plain old hard graft behind a GBBF bar. Every trainee is given to a GBBF bar manager (Buster Grant from Brecon Brewery in my case) and expected to get stuck into all aspects of looking after the bar (whilst trying not to get in the way too much).

Beer beasties!

Beer nasties under the microscope in the GBBF QA lab. They take this stuff seriously.

GBBF trainee schedule, in brief…
I arrived on Saturday August 10th, signed in and immediately reported to Buster – for the first two days trainees are handed straight over to their managers to provide extra muscle for set-up. First job: kils are arriving on pallets and need to be up on stillage. Cooling was hooked up. Beer lines and pumps set up and cleaned.

A typical GBBF stillage exists in two distinct parts – one is what you see behind the bar: a scaffolding structure with a lower and an upper deck where casks are sitting under cooling jackets. Part of the art of setting this up is deciding where to put the casks in order to aid efficient take-down. I.e. under Buster’s system the 1st and 2nd casks on are all out to the edges so that the outer cooling systems can be broken down early. There is no prescriptive one-way-to-do-things however, and each GBBF bar manager has developed their own methods and tricks. There are some constraints of course, such as: there are typically 4 kilderkins of each beer and these need to be arranged such that the line from a given hand-pump is able to reach them all. (Having done this GBBF I can very much see why kils are a necessity!) [Edit: I forgot to explain the “second part” – this is a huge refrigerated box located behind the stillage that has the other half of the beer in it. Up on a double-layer scaffold. The cooler boxes are much simpler to set up and manage and some think it should all be done that way as it is so much easier – however others think the “look and feel” of a festival is not as good without all the kils out on display.]

The first casks were vented and tapped on Sunday so they would be ready for the “trade session” on Tuesday. Through the week the remaining casks are vented, tapped, and hooked up to lines as required. Twice a day the volume of beer in the casks that are on is measured with a dipstick and this feeds in to deciding when to vent the next-casks-in-line. When a cask runs dry it is sealed up and moved to “the crypt” at the end of the day.

This all amounts to a truly epic operation. Have a look at the crypt for an idea of the scale of things… (you can drag the image around for a full 360-degree experience… Google did NOT make this easy to achieve!)

The actual coursework and theory of the training is held in sessions from Monday through to Friday. Monday is a quiet day for a good bar team anyway – as most of the set-up is done and it is just a matter of spit-and-polish. A day of rest before the beer-drinking hoards hit the festival on Tuesday. Throughout the weekdays trainees split their time between the sessions and helping out at their bars wherever they can be of use. Everything from beer technicalities to serving customers at the bar – plus quite a bit of mopping at times.

Colin thirsty for hops...

Colin thirsty for hops… enjoying a beer in the Voly after another long GBBF day sitting on my head.

The reward at the end of every night is time for a couple of free pints in the “Volunteers Arms” (aka “the voly”) - the staff-only bar (with over 200 different beers on over the course of GBBF – it is a beer-festival within a beer-festival). It was a long week with post-voly bedtime most nights being about 2AM. However we didn’t need to be on-site until 10AM(ish) so that’s not all that bad.

At the end of the final day, within 2 hours of 5pm “time at the bar”, all casks and equipment were off stillage and on pallets. On Sunday the 18th, my last day, I was mostly in the crypt sorting and stacking dead casks. One final batch of hard graft before scooting home on the train for a much needed night in my own bed before heading back to office drudgery on Monday.

It was a long 9 days – and the seriously hardcore volunteers have a couple more either side to make it about 2 weeks on-site. Dedication to cask ale!


The handpumps of Bar 19.

Cask ale care…
(especially with my own festival in mind)…
All the topics covered interested me. (Well, to be honest: the cider session was a nightmare). But I was really there for the beer. How does one serve cask ale in good form? Unfortunately there isn’t 100% agreement on this! However most disagreement comes down to peripheral issues like whether or not venting tools were good and how you should arrange beers on stillage. The term “dark art” came up more than once. However there was enough of a consensus for me to build up a plan for my next festival. I’m lucky enough to have one that isn’t complex – we have 1 cask of each beer (a mix of firks and kils) and they all go on at once for 2.5 days of service starting Thursday evening. Here’s my rough timeline - feel free to critique it. Please.

  1. Monday: (preferable) or Tuesday (ASAP) get all casks on stillage and under cooling.
    • Would prefer Monday with casks sitting overnight before venting, but that incurs the cost of an extra night of overnight security.
    • Conflict exists about whether or not to be variously violent with casks to “redistribute muck and finings”. My position is violence here doesn’t seem necessary. Plus they have already been rolled around the ground quite a bit at this stage.
    • Conflict exists here with respect to use of soft/hard pegs. My position is that soft pegs should only be used where casks exhibit excessive activity. Hard pegs should be applied as soon as activity dies down.
    • Ideally casks should have a few hours to sit at this point prior to venting.
  2. Tuesday: vent and tap all casks.
    • Hard pegs firmly in all casks unless there is excessive activity.
  3. Wednesday AM: 1st check of beers.
    • If good mark as “OK”, otherwise mark as appropriate – making note of any particular taints or excessive haze.
  4. Wednesday PM/evening: 2nd check of beers.
    • If good mark as “OK”. Any still with with excessive haze that hasn’t changed since the 1st check to be tested for overnight with isinglass and aux finings (if possible).
  5. Thursday AM: 3rd check of beers.
    • If determined that finings should be added to any beers, do it now. Carefully & in-place, using a funnel and bent tube. (This is how it is done at GBBF.)
  6. Thursday pre-opening:
    • Check any non-“OK” beers before opening. Attach/flip their cask-end-cards for “OK” beers. Soft spiles in “OK” casks for duration of service.
  7. Thursday end-of-night: Stock-take with dip-sticks, and hard spiles in all beers.
  8. Friday pre-opening: Check any beers not yet “OK”. “OK” them if possible.
  9. Friday end-of-night: Stock-take with dip-sticks, and hard spiles in all beers, perhaps plastics in any below half-full.
  10. Saturday pre-opening: Check, “OK”, etc…
  11. Saturday end-of-night: It’s all over!
    • Pack up as much kit as possible before bed as it all needs to be packed and off-site by Sunday arvo.

This isn’t actually a massive change from my usual schedule – but it does contain more detail and care than previously! Any glaring problems in the schedule? Please let me know in the comments or on Twitter… Some trivialities are omitted, it is the general timeline that’s the important part. It contains things I did not do before, such as:

  • Much more fine-grained checking of the beer in the lead-up to opening.
  • Using finings on beers that really don’t seem to want to drop bright.
  • Regular stock-taking throughout the festival (we need a flexi dipstick!)

My primary goal at any beer festival is: serve an enjoyable pint of beer. Sometimes the beer works against you and it seems to be a given that less-than-perfect pints are not unexpected at CAMRA festivals. I wish this were not so. We should be shining a light upon what a good pint of cask ale can be. Alas the beer works against you sometimes. I have had perfectly fine tasting beer arrive dead flat. What do I do then? I’d like to mark it as crap and send it back to the brewer – cue frustrating arguments. If it tastes fine, has condition, but carries a little haze or “cast” (a very very light haze) I put a note on the cask-end card and tell the bar staff to give prior warning along the lines of “it tastes perfect, but has a little haze to it”. (When we have unfined beers this is perfectly OK of course – though this is more difficult to explain to staff, let alone customers!) Anyway – enough of an aside here, this paragraph is what comes from my personal experience prior to GBBF. (GBBF training cannot offer any silver bullets for these issues.)

These are the tools of the beer QA/lab.

These are the tools of the GBBF Beer-QA lab. Probably a bit more than I really need…

Tools & Toys…
My branch has a couple of toolboxes. Mostly they’re full of rusting relics. Post-training we’re going to have to audit the selection… and we already have a shopping list! Perhaps more on that another time, “The CAMRA Bar Manager’s Toolbox”?

One interesting point is the obvious issue of returning part-full casks. We just hammer in the hard spile and put a cork in the end. While this is clearly not sufficient to stop beer leaking out I’d figured it was simply “the done thing” as it is the thing that is done. After having worked at GBBF, with an actual brewer as a bar manager, I now know this is one of the things that can make brewers quite grumpy. So… want to keep your friendly brewers friendly? Your festival should have a de-shiving tool and sufficient replacement shives and bungs. Any beers returned with a lot still in the casks should have new shives and bungs fitted and ideally be marked as part-full. If the beers were “wrong” in some way this should be marked in some way too – red tape over the bung helps to identify casks with a possible infection. We shall be obtaining such a tool (a sturdy screwdriver can do the job, but the correct tool is easier & safer) and some bags of shives & bungs.

GBBF bar banner

Featuring “Let There Be Beer” – a travesty.

I have great personal conflict & angst over my involvement in CAMRA. On the one hand I think cask ale is great and worthy of advocacy, I love the CAMRA community, and I love being involved in and going to beer festivals. On the other hand I  have found the organisation’s vague support for pubs disheartening – though that seems to have improved greatly in the last year. I’m regularly angered over CAMRA’s willingness to be an advertising-front for JD Wetherspoon and their friendliness with some “brewers” who’re also actively destroying pubs. More recently, I’m really irate about their ill-conceived involvement with this whole Let There Be Beer shambles. LTBB is primarily (solely) promoting big-brand beers available on the cheap from your local supermarket. This does nothing for cask ale and is actively anti-pub.

I swing between really enjoying being a part of CAMRA and feelings of ARGH, CAMRA! *angryface* I QUIT! (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

I have, quite inaccurately, split the target of these feelings between “what normal CAMRA people do” and “what HQ decides”. HQ gets the anger pointed in their direction and meanwhile I get on with beery things with the normal CAMRA folk. The ones who love beer, enjoy beer festivals, and mostly just want to have a good time. Whilst doing so they hope that they can help others discover the beer they love to drink and ensure its availability in the future. We are volunteers putting our own time into something we love. GBBF is the product of 10s of thousands of hours of volunteer time – I can’t help but be impressed by that, and be proud to have been a member of the 2013 GBBF team.

I’ll be back.


I did it all for this – I’m official now. Look – it has a shiny sticker on it!

Complete photo-set:

Cubed, shnoodlepooped, and hit by a train…

Colin Loves Dotty

Colin Loves Dotty

Hitting Monday reality after a beer weekend like Birmingham Beer Bash is like driving full-speed into a brick wall of disappointment in a vehicle of shattered hopes. Beer makes the world so much of a brighter place, and massive beer nerd love-in events like Birmingham Cubed are a totally crazy trip, but with the hardest of come-downs. I’m sitting here thinking of all the beers I didn’t get to try, all the folk I didn’t get to talk to, the post-event analysis is churning away in the back of my head and I can’t even sleep.

I did Saturday. Both the arvo and evening sessions. Though stretched out across not-too-many beers thanks to a lot of food and talking. It was a beautiful day and a beautiful venue – with just enough outdoor space to allow enjoyment of the weather, but without relying on the outdoors so that when it did finally chuck it down in the evening everyone could stand under-cover in some comfort. Venue: totally repeatable. The different “rooms” of the space added character, the canal interest, and while it initially seemed a bit “out of town” on the map it really was just a stroll from New Street.

Parfait & Maisels Weisse

Parfait & Maisels Weisse

On the Saturday evening Kat and I were booked into the beer-matched dinner. That’s my kind of thing really. The “match of the dinner” was Maisels Weisse with some banana parfait thing. (Peanut Butter Parfait, Caramelised Banana, Caramel Sauce.) Seems an obvious one – but usually the obvious ones are the ones that work the best. Otherwise I wasn’t too impressed by the matches. Purity ales are great – but I just wouldn’t really bother much with pairings of golden ale and best bitter types of beers with food in general. Finishing with Sierra Nevada stout and good Cheddar: great! But why not a British beer? The same goes for the Maisels really – a good match, but while a British weizen can be difficult to find – they do exist.

The food itself was outstanding. Simpsons are now on my “gotta go there one-day” list. Interestingly the dinner didn’t seem to be populated with many from the beer-nerd crowd, all the folk at our table were more food-led than beer-bashers. This made the conversation a little difficult at times – and I also feel they might not have got the best experience of the whole food + beer thing alas. But, perhaps I’m being too critical – I’m a step removed from reality in these things. None of the pairings were actively wrong, it’s merely that the beer was entirely overshadowed by the food in most cases. That said, the dude from Purity Ales talked a good talk, and was zipping around the room chatting to people about beer and food – and, importantly, it looked like everyone in the room enjoyed the event. The meal ended with the two best pairings and thus should have left everyone with a good impression of fine dining + fine beer as a “concept”.



Beer of the festival: Shnoodlepip. Not my thing at all. Almost awful – but not so bad I couldn’t drink all of my third of a pint whilst thoughtfully dissing it. I’ve had a handful of these “sour” beers this year that seem a bit off to me. I love a good sour beer, but this wasn’t it – I don’t want a dash of malt vinegar in a beer. It’s “pongy”. Yet it was brewed by Wild Beer Co, Kelly Ryan, and Mark Tranter. Basically beer nerd fairydust. So therefore it must be good and it is a sin to think otherwise? I pick it as my beer of the fest because it is the one still in the front of my mind a day later. It is challenging, it really probably isn’t a good representation of this whole “craft” thing. You’ve got a bunch of “craft wankers” (like myself) setting expectations sky high over a specific beer (everyone wanted to try it) and the beer itself is a bit wrong and twisted. I wish I’d been able to talk to more people about this beer while I was at the Bash as now here I sit thinking “what’s wrong with me”. But oh well… otherwise I think I’ve loved every Wild Beer Co ale I’ve supped. Redwood is right up my alley, it’s got the right funk. With that in mind: others think the funk that I like is utterly disgusting in a beer.

Is it ever right to say a beer is bad? Is it analysis, or is this a thing more like art – where a sort of cult culture can transcend the reality in your mouth. Fuck, this is too complicated for 6AM on a Monday.

ANYWAY. It’s all over now, it sounds like the Birmingham beer Bash was somewhat of a success so if the suffering of running such an event again isn’t too daunting to the organisers then  we can hope to see it again next year. If it does happen again: GO. For an ambitious first-time independent beer festival run mainly by enthusiasts (rather than industry folk) B3 came together amazingly well. Good beer, good food, no daft boundaries. Oh – and damn good people too. Never forget the people… because that’s what this is all about really isn’t it? Beer brings us together, inspires conversation, and breaks down barriers.

Beer can also make us feel like we’ve woken up dead after being hit by a train. A harsh mistress indeed. [Update: No, now I’m suspecting a touch of food poisoning… not at all well today.]